January 2022
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LPC News & Events
Presentation: Our Favorite Loon Stories by Daniel and Virginia Poleschook
In this presentation on February 3rd at 7 PM EST, Daniel Poleschook, Jr. and Virginia R. Poleschook, a husband-and wife team who have studied Common Loons in the Pacific Northwest for 26 years, will recount their favorite loon stories. They will discuss many of the behaviors and events that they have documented over the years, including: territorial and other social interactions between loons, instances that demonstrate loons' high intelligence, tales of loon migration in western North America, and many other stories that reveal amazing characteristics of loons. This talk will be live streamed on LPC's YouTube channel.
We're Hiring!
In October, our long-time Development Coordinator, Lin O'Bara, embarked on a well-deserved retirement. Though we miss Lin terribly, we are excited at the prospect of welcoming a new staff member into the LPC family! We are searching for a Director of Development and Membership to spearhead our development efforts as LPC continues to grow. A description of the position can be found here, along with instructions for applying.
Photo courtesy of Virginia and Daniel Poleschook.
Photo courtesy of Ray Hennessy.
Presentation Playback
In December, we were fortunate to have Erica Lemoine, Coordinator of Wisconsin Loonwatch, present on loons and loon monitoring in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest. The presentation was recorded and can be accessed here.
LPC at Work
December was a busy month for us at LPC (especially Senior Biologist, John Cooley)! In addition to his more typical winter work of data analysis, fulfilling reporting requirements, and other tasks necessary to sustaining LPC's field program, over the course of the month John rescued three iced-in loons on lakes across New Hampshire. LPC also worked with NH Fish and Game and wildlife rehabilitator, Maria Colby, to evaluate, band, and release a fourth loon that crash landed in a store parking lot.

Our first rescue of the month occurred on Lower Baker Pond, where one of the juvenile loons hatched this year had become iced-in. Loons are heavy birds with wings that are short and narrow relative to their body size. Because of that, they have high rates of wing loading (the amount of weight supported by each square inch of wing) and require a large 'runway' of open water in order to take flight. Loons that wait too long to leave their lakes in the winter risk losing the ability to take off as the ice closes in around them.

In late November, an LPC volunteer contacted us with concerns that the loon was still on the pond long after its parents and sibling had left. At that time, the loon was not at immediate risk—although the edges of the pond were skimming over with ice, there was still plenty of open water that it could use to take off. We asked our volunteer to update us daily on the status of the loon and the ice conditions on the pond. By December 5th, the ice had come in significantly, trapping the loon in just a small hole of open water. LPC Senior Biologist, John Cooley, headed out to rescue the loon. However, although the lake was completely covered with ice, it was thin and gave way as John moved his boat towards the loon. This created more open water, giving the loon more space to dive and avoid capture. For the safety of all involved, we opted to return to monitoring the situation, waiting for the ice to thicken (to make things more safe for John) and close in more (confining the loon to a smaller space and therefore making it more likely that a rescue attempt would succeed).
LPC Senior Biologist, John Cooley, makes his way across the ice during the first rescue attempt on Lower Baker Pond. Note the loon in the background, circled in red. Photo courtesy of Cathy Eastburn.
On December 9th, we received photos showing the loon once again confined to a small patch of open water. Further, our volunteer reported that the loon was frequently pulling itself out of the water and onto the ice and that the ice seemed to be thicker than it had been during the previous rescue attempt. On December 10th, John set out again for the pond. This time, he succeeded in catching the loon. The loon was taken for a veterinary examination at Hopkinton Animal Hospital. Thankfully, radiographs and blood tests showed no major problems; however, because the loon was underweight for its age, it spent a couple of nights at Wings of the Dawn Wildlife Rehabilitation for feeding and observation. After regaining some weight and proving that it was able to swim, dive, and catch fish, the loon was determined to be fit for return to the wild. It was banded (so that we can identify it if it returns to a NH lake in the future) and released on the ocean at Odiorne Point.
Photo courtesy of Cathy Eastburn.
On December 21st, we received a call that NH Fish and Game Sgt. Geoff Pushee had picked up an adult loon that had crash landed in a parking lot in Loudon. Sgt. Pushee dropped the loon off at VCA Capital Area Veterinary Emergency and Specialty (CAVES), where LPC biologist Caroline Hughes and wildlife rehabilitator, Maria Colby, met to evaluate its condition. A radiograph revealed a metal object in the loon’s gizzard, however, blood tests showed a low lead level, indicating that it was non-lead tackle that would not threaten the loon's life. Finding no health problems, we kept the loon overnight for feeding and observation. We then banded the loon and released it onto the ocean. 
The circled bright white object showing in this radiograph is a metal object. Blood lead tests indicated that this object was not made of lead. Radiograph courtesy of VCA CAVES.
As we were making plans to release the Loudon loon, we were informed of another loon that had become stranded on the ice at Northwood Lake. After banding and releasing the Loudon loon on the ocean, LPC staff headed over to Northwood Lake, where John once again suited up in his protective gear and headed out across the ice. Because the loon was completely on top of the ice and there was no open water for it to escape into, John was able to quickly capture it. The loon was a male that had been previously banded in 2020 on Lake Winnepocket in Webster. It had likely stopped over on Northwood Lake during its migration to the ocean and become stranded there. This loon’s radiograph revealed a surprising finding: there was a large metal fragment in its right shoulder and smaller metal fragments in its left shoulder. The loon had likely been shot. However, it was able to move both wings without difficulty, and we could find no signs of entry wounds on the loon’s skin. Further, the radiograph revealed that the loon’s bones had not been damaged by the shot. After evaluation and consultation with multiple veterinarians with avian and loon expertise, it was determined that the shot was an old injury that the loon had already healed from and would not prevent the loon from flying. Finding no other problems, the loon was released onto the ocean the morning of December 24th.
This radiograph of the loon rescued on Northwood Lake shows metal fragments (circled) in both shoulders. Radiograph courtesy of VCA CAVES.
On December 27th, we heard from volunteers that a loon was remaining in a patch of open water on Mascoma Lake. On December 30th, we attempted a rescue. John headed out across the ice to rescue the loon, assisted from shore by other LPC staff and volunteers and assisted on the ice by NH Fish and Game Sgt. Heidi Murphy and Enfield Fire Chief Phil Neily. Fortunately, the ice was solid, allowing all three rescuers firm footing. Unfortunately, the hole was narrow but long, and the loon was able to dive and evade the rescue team. Even after stretching a 30’X50’ tarp across the hole to reduce the size of the area where the loon could surface, there was still too much open water. After nearly two hours of trying, the rescuers knew that in order for the rescue to be a success, they’d have to either further reduce the amount of open water available or call off the rescue and wait for the ice to close up more. 
LPC Senior Biologist John Cooley (right) makes a swipe for the loon while NH Fish and Game Sgt. Heidi Murphy (left) and Enfield Fire Chief Phil Neily (center) assist. Photo courtesy of Maria Colby.
Fortunately, a neighbor had several tarps that he allowed us to use. The folks on shore strung together the tarps, and the rescuers dragged these tarps out across the ice and stretched them over the open water, further reducing the size of the area where the loon could surface. This did the trick—after a bit more trying, John was able to net the loon and bring it to shore.

The loon was taken to Weare Animal Hospital for radiographs and blood work. Sadly, the radiograph revealed that the loon’s lungs and airsacs were severely compromised, likely by an infection. Because of the severity of her condition, after consulting with veterinarians we made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize this loon.  
John carries the Mascoma loon to shore. Photo courtesy of Maria Colby.
We would like to thank all who contributed to the rescue, evaluation, and treatment of these four loons, including: the volunteers who reported the loons, monitored them until a rescue was likely to be successful, and assisted from shore during the rescues (Cathy Eastburn, Reed Harrigan and the staff at Camp Pemigewasset, Tom Bonardi and family, Terri and Bud Lynch, Lacey Speiser, and many others), those who assisted with capturing the loons (NH Fish and Game Sergeants Geoff Pushee and Heidi Murphy, Enfield Fire Chief Phil Neily), those who helped to examine and evaluate the loons (Dr. Michael Dutton and his staff at Weare Animal Hospital and Hopkinton Animal Hospital, Dr. Allison Darby and the staff at VCA CAVES, and Dr. Mark Pokras), and wildlife rehabilitator Maria Colby of Wings of the Dawn Wildlife Rehabilitation, who also helped to evaluate the loons and cared for them until they were ready for release. We are incredibly fortunate to be able to work with many wonderful people and organizations to help these loons!
Loon Fact of the Month
This juvenile loon stayed on Lower Baker Pond too long and became iced in—why? Photo courtesy of Cathy Eastburn.
The overwhelming majority of loons leave for their ocean wintering grounds long before ice forms on their breeding lakes. Why do some loons stay behind long enough to become iced-in? This topic is one that we are learning more about with each ice rescue, and there is no single clear answer. Different loons may become iced in for different reasons, including:

1) Injury or Illness: The loon that we rescued from Mascoma Lake this year had severe problems with her respiratory system that likely prevented her from being able to breathe well enough to take off and sustain flight. In the past, other problems, such as lead poisoning or broken bones, have also been found to cause loons to become iced in.

2) Lack of Experience: This year, a health exam of the juvenile loon rescued on Lower Baker Pond revealed no health problems that would have prevented it from taking off. Last year, 3 of the 4 juvenile loons that LPC rescued from the ice also were found to have no underlying health problems. It is possible that these juveniles remain on their lakes too late because they simply miss or do not heed the signs that normally spur loons to leave for the ocean (reductions in day length, changes in weather, etc.).

3) Weather Conditions: The adult loon that we rescued from Northwood Lake this year also had no detectable underlying health problems that would have prevented him from taking off. However, in his case, it is possible that weather may have been a factor. The day prior to the loon being spotted on the lake, it had rained. However, because of temperatures that were just above freezing, the rain did not freeze. Instead, it settled on top of the ice on the lake, giving off the illusion of open water that tricked even some human observers into believing the lake was open. Though we can’t know for sure how the loon got there, given the fact that the loon breeds on a different lake, it is possible that he was flying over on its way to the ocean, mistakenly thought the lake was open, and crash landed on the ice.

4) Climate: In some years, mild temperatures in November and December keep lakes open, and loons may stay behind to enjoy the lake while the fishing is still good. If a cold snap occurs and the lake ices over rapidly, it may take loons by surprise and result in them becoming iced in. 

Each ice rescue has taught us more about why loons become iced-in. These rescues have also already had a demonstrable effect on New Hampshire's loon population—three of the four loons that were rescued from Lake Sunapee and released on the ocean in 2016 have returned to their breeding lakes in subsequent years, and two of the four have added to New Hampshire's loon population in that time by hatching chicks.
New Item Spotlight
This January, cozy up with the Mug and Sock Gift Set, a new product at the Loons Feather Gift Shop! This set comes with a 12 oz. ceramic loon image mug and a pair of socks with a fun loon design. Socks are polyester. Click here to get yours!
Loon Preservation Committee | 603-476-LOON (5666) | www.loon.org
The Loon Preservation Committee is dedicated to restoring and maintaining a healthy population of loons throughout New Hampshire; monitoring the health and productivity of loon populations as sentinels of environmental quality; and promoting a greater understanding of loons and the natural world.